Base members "adopt" Japanese students for weekend

Nanase Abe, center, a student from Tanohata Junior High School, introduces herself to base members participating in a Homestay event during the opening ceremony at the Civic Center in Misawa City, Japan, Aug. 2, 2013. Base members who volunteered for the event opened their homes to the students for a weekend where they shared cultures and learned about each other. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kia Atkins)

Nanase Abe, center, a student from Tanohata Junior High School, introduces herself to base members participating in a Homestay event during the opening ceremony at the Civic Center in Misawa City, Japan, Aug. 2, 2013. Base members who volunteered for the event opened their homes to the students for a weekend where they shared cultures and learned about each other. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kia Atkins)

From left, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs NCO in charge of U.S. media relations, her daughter, her husband Dave Brown, Amane Nakamura and Nanase Abe, students from Tanohata Junior High School, take a "family" photo together during the Homestay event's opening ceremony at the Civic Center in Misawa City, Japan, Aug. 2, 2013. For a weekend, volunteers from on base took in the students and made them a part of the family. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kia Atkins)

From left, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs NCO in charge of U.S. media relations, her daughter, her husband Dave Brown, Amane Nakamura and Nanase Abe, students from Tanohata Junior High School, take a "family" photo together during the Homestay event's opening ceremony at the Civic Center in Misawa City, Japan, Aug. 2, 2013. For a weekend, volunteers from on base took in the students and made them a part of the family. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kia Atkins)

Nanase Abe and Amane Nakamura, left, students from Tanohata Junior High School, play a game with U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs NCO in charge of U.S. media relations, and her daughter during a weekend Homestay event at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Aug. 2, 2013. Brown was one of four military families who hosted eight Japanese students from Tanohata Junior High School in Tanohata, Japan, in an effort to share cultural traditions and demonstrate continued U.S. support to a community that endured severe natural disasters two years ago. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kia Atkins)

Nanase Abe and Amane Nakamura, left, students from Tanohata Junior High School, play a game with U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs NCO in charge of U.S. media relations, and her daughter during a weekend Homestay event at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Aug. 2, 2013. Brown was one of four military families who hosted eight Japanese students from Tanohata Junior High School in Tanohata, Japan, in an effort to share cultural traditions and demonstrate continued U.S. support to a community that endured severe natural disasters two years ago. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kia Atkins)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown, left, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs NCO in charge of U.S. media relations, her daughter, center, Amane Nakamura, right, and Nanase Abe play a game of volleyball during a weekend Homestay event at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Aug. 3, 2013. The students that were a part of this Homestay are from Iwate prefecture, which was highly affected by the tsunami and earthquake more than two years ago. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kia Atkins)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown, left, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs NCO in charge of U.S. media relations, her daughter, center, Amane Nakamura, right, and Nanase Abe play a game of volleyball during a weekend Homestay event at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Aug. 3, 2013. The students that were a part of this Homestay are from Iwate prefecture, which was highly affected by the tsunami and earthquake more than two years ago. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kia Atkins)

Daughter of U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs NCO in charge of U.S. media relations, throws a ball to Amane Nakamura, a student from Tanohata Junior High School, during a weekend Homestay event at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Aug. 3, 2013. This is the second Homestay this year that the base has hosted for students from areas that were highly affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The base also hosts homestays for local students from Misawa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kia Atkins)

Daughter of U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs NCO in charge of U.S. media relations, throws a ball to Amane Nakamura, a student from Tanohata Junior High School, during a weekend Homestay event at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Aug. 3, 2013. This is the second Homestay this year that the base has hosted for students from areas that were highly affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The base also hosts homestays for local students from Misawa. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kia Atkins)

Amane Nakamura, left, and Nanase Abe, students from Tanohata Junior High School, make brownies during a weekend Homestay event at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Aug. 3, 2013. Homestay is a program sponsored by the Misawa International Club where Japanese local nationals are invited to stay with military families for a weekend to experience one another's culture. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kia Atkins)

Amane Nakamura, left, and Nanase Abe, students from Tanohata Junior High School, make brownies during a weekend Homestay event at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Aug. 3, 2013. Homestay is a program sponsored by the Misawa International Club where Japanese local nationals are invited to stay with military families for a weekend to experience one another's culture. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kia Atkins)

Amane Nakamura, a student from Tanohata Junior High School, paints a ceramic vase during a weekend Homestay event at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Aug. 3, 2013. Nakamura was one of eight students from a recovering area where the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami hit, and stayed with U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs NCO in charge of U.S. media relations, and her family for the weekend where they shared cultures and learned about each other. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown)

Amane Nakamura, a student from Tanohata Junior High School, paints a ceramic vase during a weekend Homestay event at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Aug. 3, 2013. Nakamura was one of eight students from a recovering area where the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami hit, and stayed with U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs NCO in charge of U.S. media relations, and her family for the weekend where they shared cultures and learned about each other. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown)

From left: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs NCO in charge of U.S. media relations, her daughter, Amane Nakamura and Nanase Abe, students from Tanohata Junior High School, cook breakfast together during a weekend Homestay event at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Aug. 4, 2013. Along with showing continued national support following the earthquake and tsunami disaster in 2011, the Homestay program, sponsored by the Misawa International Club, allows local national students to experience American culture with a weekend stay with families at Misawa Air Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kia Atkins)

From left: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs NCO in charge of U.S. media relations, her daughter, Amane Nakamura and Nanase Abe, students from Tanohata Junior High School, cook breakfast together during a weekend Homestay event at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Aug. 4, 2013. Along with showing continued national support following the earthquake and tsunami disaster in 2011, the Homestay program, sponsored by the Misawa International Club, allows local national students to experience American culture with a weekend stay with families at Misawa Air Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kia Atkins)

Nanase Abe and Amane Nakamura, students from Tanohata Junior High School, give thanks and say goodbye to U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs NCO in charge of U.S. media relations, her daughter and her husband, Dave Brown, during the closing ceremony of the weekend Homestay event at the Civic Center in Misawa City, Japan, Aug. 4, 2013. Military families at Misawa Air Base welcomed students into their homes to experience American culture. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kia Atkins)

Nanase Abe and Amane Nakamura, students from Tanohata Junior High School, give thanks and say goodbye to U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs NCO in charge of U.S. media relations, her daughter and her husband, Dave Brown, during the closing ceremony of the weekend Homestay event at the Civic Center in Misawa City, Japan, Aug. 4, 2013. Military families at Misawa Air Base welcomed students into their homes to experience American culture. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kia Atkins)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Even though more than two years have passed since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the aftermath of its devastation can still be seen in those areas that were hit the hardest.

On the school grounds of Tanohata Junior High School in Iwate prefecture, temporary housing was built where 19 families still live today. Some of those family members are students; students that attend that very school.

Some of these students were selected for an opportunity that many others don't get to experience. A chance to participate in a Homestay event and spend the weekend with American military families stationed at Misawa Air Base.

Four military families volunteered to "adopt" the students for a weekend where they could share cultures and give the children a glimpse into American life.

The families were introduced to their new weekend guests during the opening ceremony at the Misawa Civic Center where they met the students they would be "adopting" and were thanked for their participation. The families were handed a packet that contained common English and Japanese phrases and were encouraged to treat the students as if they were their own family members.

Two of the eight students that participated in the Homestay, Nanase Abe and Amane Nakamura, were taken in by Tech. Sgt. Marie Brown, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs NCO in charge of U.S. media relations.

"At first I was kind of nervous about volunteering to invite these students into my home," said Brown. "I thought it might be uncomfortable having strangers around, but these girls were great."

Day one for Abe and Nakamura started off with a family dinner at the Browns', followed by board games with Brown and her 2-year-old daughter, Kaylee. After the gaming, they all watched a couple of movies and got to know each other a little better. At the beginning of the night, Brown said communication was a little difficult, but the language barrier slowly started breaking down.

"As time went by, communicating with the girls became easier and easier," she said. "There was a very small communication link in the beginning, but the more we got to know each other the easier it was to understand what we were all trying to say."

After a good night's rest, the new family woke up and enjoyed a nice breakfast together before channeling their inner artists at the arts and crafts center where they had fun painting and making crafts together. The fun didn't stop there, their next stop was the base beach where they played the girls' favorite sport - volleyball - and barbecued the girls their favorite American food -hamburgers.

"I think the sun got the best of us when we were out at the beach because after we got home we all laid down for a nap," Brown laughed. "The girls slept so long I had to go in and wake them up for dinner."

After dinner, Brown then shared with the students one of her favorite hobbies, baking, where Abe and Nakamura learned one of Brown's baking secrets: using applesauce instead of oil. They all talked and laughed while baking, and Kaylee would run in to the kitchen every now and then to ask her new sisters to give her a cookie.

"I didn't know how Kaylee was going to act at first with her new older sisters, but she loved spending time with them," said Brown. "Every morning Kaylee would wake up before them and she would ask 'where are the girls?' She couldn't wait for them to wake up so that she could play with them. As soon as they woke up she would get excited and run to me and say 'girls are awake, come mommy, come.' I think Kaylee did great this weekend with our Japanese guests and helped to welcome them into our home."

Like most good things, the weekend had to come to an end. On Sunday, the Browns brought their new family members to the closing ceremony of the weekend Homestay event where they said their goodbyes and thanked one another for the wonderful experiences they had.

"This past weekend was a great experience," said Brown. "Hosting the students was a very fulfilling experience and I am happy that I was able to participate in this program. It was very rewarding to be able to meet such wonderful Japanese students and have my daughter interact with them as well. I believe this is an experience that will stay with me for a very long time. The photos I was able to capture will be lasting memories for not only me, but my daughter as well."

Brown said it was definitely something she would participate in again and encourage other families to participate as well.

"I enjoyed staying with the Brown Family very much," said Amane Nakamura. "I would like very much to be a part of something like this again."

The Homestay program is an event that is sponsored by the Misawa International Club and is hosted by Misawa Air Base a few times a year.

"I feel this program has a positive effect on U.S. and Japanese relations," said Brown. "The girls were able to learn a little of how we live on a daily basis and will now be able to share their experience with other students. Taking a few minutes or even a weekend to share your culture with our Japanese hosts is such a rewarding experience and you will make memories that will last a lifetime."